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Ghazi: No plans for condos at EpiCentre

As those who invested in condominiums that have not been built at the EpiCentre wait to learn the fate of the site, developer Afshin Ghazi said he doesn't know what to do with the air space where the condos were to be built, saying the market for condos "is pretty dry right now." Mecklenburg Times file photo

More than 300 investors purchased condominiums at Charlotte’s EpiCentre in hopes of enjoying a Center City lifestyle.

But after five years of waiting, some investors, such as 36-year-old Andre Williams of Charlotte, are just hoping not to lose their money.

“I have all the hope in the world,” Williams said Monday. “Right now, I’ll still take the condo or my money. I just don’t want to throw 24 grand up in the air.”

Williams said he and other investors have filed a lawsuit in Indianapolis against developer Afshin Ghazi and other companies involved in the 210 Trade St. project, including 210 Trade Investments.

Five years ago, Williams put $24,000 down for a 1,300-square-foot, one-bedroom condo on the 23rd floor of the project, which included 50 stories atop the EpiCentre entertainment complex. He said he now has two children and can’t afford to lose the money.

But Williams’ condo and those of others might not be built.

A company believed to be affiliated with Ghazi, 210 Trade Investments LLC, was the apparent high bidder — with a $6 million bid — when air rights were sold at a Nov. 23 foreclosure auction for the condo project space.

Ghazi said he doesn’t know what he’ll do with the space that had been set aside for condos, and he offered a negative assessment of the condo market.

“That market is pretty dry right now,” Ghazi said.

The foreclosure sale is not finalized until a 10-day period passes, during which time there can be an upset, or higher, bid placed on the property. If no upset bids are received, 210 Trade Investments will own the space.

Construction began on the condos in 2008 but it was halted over permitting issues. No condos have been completed.

The EpiCentre contains 300,000-square-feet of office and retail space in the center of uptown Charlotte at Trade and College streets. It sits at the site of the old Charlotte Convention Center and is considered an important part of the redevelopment plan for the uptown.

EpiCentre has been plagued with other financial problems.

On Nov. 22, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of $93.9 million EpiCentre-related debt from Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Bank to Blue Air 2010 LLC. EpiCentre, which was developed by Ghazi and George Cornelson, said in a court filing that a new creditor would make a reorganization of the company successful.

Regions began foreclosure proceedings against EpiCentre owners Pacific Avenue and Pacific Avenue II in July after claiming they had not paid on a $90 million loan since December. The foreclosure proceedings were halted when the companies filed for bankruptcy protection that same month.

Ghazi said by e-mail following the sale of the note to Blue Air that the purchase “is a watershed event and we look forward to the coming weeks and exiting bankruptcy as soon as possible.”

“Regions was the biggest roadblock in our way, and now that they are gone it opens the path to a very bright and positive future,” Ghazi said.

He declined to comment on claims made by EpiCentre contractors and storeowners who say they are owed reimbursements related to construction of the complex and improvements made to shops.

Tara Ramsey can be reached at [email protected].

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